Apple investigating teenager who sold white iPhone 4 kits

By on November 19, 2010, 1:08 PM
17 year-old Fei Lam is now in Apple's crosshairs for his website, where he sold white iPhone 4 kits. A private investigator by the name of Jimmy Robbins was looking into Fei and his business, which generated about $139,500 in the last three months. We speculated that this investigator was probably hired by Apple, and it turns out this was correct.

Lam's attorney, Andrew Jaffe, told the The New York Observer that Robbins was indeed working for Apple. We say "was" because Robbins informed Jaffe that he was off the case and that Apple was handling it personally. "Now we're just waiting to hear from them officially," said Jaffe.

The New Yorker ordered white iPhone 4 parts directly from a contact at Foxconn, a factory complex in China responsible for building Apple products among other things, put his own conversion kits together, and sold them for $279 each. Lam has had a surge in traffic since his story got out around the world earlier this week and we wouldn't be surprised if he's unable to keep up with the demand. On the other hand, if Apple manages to get Lam convicted, he could end up with fines and possibly even jail-time.

User Comments: 25

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Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Foxconn supplied Lam with parts, which I assume Lam legally paid for, so how exactly could Lam be convicted of anything? I think Apple is just posturing here.

Guest said:

And since he's 17 may not be able to get in to legal trouble...

However they could get the IRS involved.

princeton princeton said:

While the black iPhone 4 was released earlier this year, the white version saw a series of delays and won't be released until Spring 2011. For those who really want a white iPhone 4, it's not surprising they're simply buying from Lam instead of waiting for Apple.

This is delicious copypasta from the previous article.

Guest said:

Oh boohoo...Its called capitalism. (see psystar)

Apple can phuck off and suck a huge wang for all I care.

Can anyone find reasonable doubt that this kid has infringed on a trademark patent or design characteristic?

Well, apple probably does have something on him but for the most part I'd just say steve isn't happy because someone stole his couch change.

P.S. It just goes to show that these bunch of fruits don't fair well without their vanity intact, and for ~$250 anyone that buys one surely must have more money than they know what to.....Oh wait they are already apple fans, so they know exactly how to waste money the proper way.

Jibberish18 said:

This is bullshit. Apple does not want to supply the masses with the White iPhone. The guys gets Foxconn to sell him Official Parts for the White iPhone. FOXCONN, the people who make the damn parts. Wouldn't you think their operations would be watched a bit more carefully then being able to sell the parts to a damn teenager? Would Apple have gave a shit if the parts weren't officially from Foxconn? Why doesn't Apple go slap Foxconn on the wrist rather than this kid? Oh and DAMN $250+ is a LOT for a stupid conversion kit.

Guest said:

The iphone 4 is now officially color biased. I guess it would be called retro-racism. Maybe the black i phones will make the white ones do their bidding. }:-)

Jibberish18 said:

Guest said:

The iphone 4 is now officially color biased. I guess it would be called retro-racism. Maybe the black i phones will make the white ones do their bidding. }:-)

Besides, EVERYONE knows that once you go black, there's no going back.

Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Lol to jibberish...

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

While I'm not in agreement with Apple just going after this kid, they have to start somewhere and there is no way this kid could think what he was doing was perfectly fine.

The Observer:

According to Lam, who speaks fluent Chinese, about six months ago he was able to make a connection with Apple's infamous overseas supplier. "I knew a guy from a few years back that had somewhat of a relationship with folks in Foxconn," Lam told The Observer by email.

So he knew a guy that knew a guy...that already comes off as shady. For all we know this guys "connections" was to employees who stole from Foxconn to make a few extra bucks which they probably could use.

So until we have more facts, it's just to hard to see who's at fault.

gobbybobby said:

Foxconn are one of the worst compays for treating workers in 3rd world countrys fairly, they work long hours in poor condition, not a very good life making the ''amazing apple products'' just read this.

''Foxconn sent a letter to be signed by all employees, removing liability to the company should an employee die. It immunised them against law suits.''

The above just shows how evil they are.

Don't buy apple products

''There was an outcry in the Chinese media and today (quote from BBC, date of article) Foxconn withdrew the letter.''

If people where selling stuff from the factory for extra money you can't blaim em! This kid should have known apple would come down hard on his ase.

Don't buy apple products (or foxconn), you are buying products you could often get for more than half the price. Overpriced, Child laboured crap.

Trillionsin Trillionsin said:

leave the poor kid alone, damn... so what.. he made money off of Apple... and not even really off Apple.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

Stupid kid. You don't mess with a control freak like Apple. The only real trouble I can see him getting into is if he isn't listed as a business and is just raking in the money without putting it on his tax form. I'm not sure how the whole "business license" thing works, so i'm not sure if he would have to have one in order to do this.

Other than that, I don't see anything here that is illegal. The kid bought legit items from a legit company, and the company did not say he couldn't do it. We're just seeing Apple's need for full control come into play here. Remember, Apple...your need for control is what lost you the Kinect technology to Microsoft.

Guest said:

what about the people that were selling the iphone 4 on ebay for over 1k, apple needs to investigate them also since they failed to meet demand

Guest said:

I reckon he could get prosecuted on the grounds that he is selling apple branded wares whilst not being an official reseller... I don't know how much of an option that is however, as he is legally buying them from the source as said, and they are just replacement parts.

Guest said:

It's quite clear that many of you don't understand IP rights. First of all, Apple contracted Foxconn to manufacture the iPhone 4. The design of everything that goes into the iPhone, including all the technical specs for parts, manufacturing all belong to Apple. If that were not the case, Foxconn could take these plans and manufacture an iPhone 4 copy for themselves or anyone else who had money to contract them to do so.

Furthermore, all the tooling for the plastics, metal and other parts in the iPhone are also owned by Apple. That also means that all the plastics, metal and other mechanical parts that are manufactured from the tools and are required to build the iPhone 4 belong to Apple. This is the part where the kid and Foxconn can both get in trouble. We are essentially talking about IP theft. Think of it as buying and selling stolen car parts from a chop shop. Neither party legally owns the part that is part of the transaction and both parties are legally liable for dealing in stolen goods.

At the very least, the Foxconn employee(s) responsible for the sale of these parts will be identified, fired, and they will need to find another job. At worst, this breach of contract could cause Apple to revoke Foxconn's manufacturing contract as is Apple's right to do so. The kid may get off with a lighter sentence since the criminal act was committed while he was a minor. He better not have his 18th birthday coming up anytime soon.

I am as much an Apple basher as many people are. While I do own and iPhone 4 and I do love it, I am against many of the actions of Apple and Steve Jobs in particular. Apple has always tried to promote a closed infrastructure and ecosystem to their own obvious advantage. That is why the Mac today only holds a roughly 5% share of the entire PC market. Apple was way ahead of the PC's back in the 80's. The entire PC world could have been dominated by Apple, if they had only been agreeable to an open architecture and open competition. The reason PCs dominate now is because the entire design of the PC is done by committees and the specifications are all open standards.

Come to think of it, it's just as well that Apple doesn't dominate the PC space. None of us would have FLASH in our PC web browsers either.

Guest said:

There is nothing legal to what he and his friends at Foxconn did is legal in any way.

Stealing a product from a company and then reselling it, is illegal no matter how you slice.


Hmmm... my personal opinion with my (very limited) knowledge of law is that Apple can't do a damn thing to the kid. However they could potentially go after Foxconn. If Apple has a contract with them regarding sale/distribution of patent designed parts, then possibly they can sue Foxconn for selling Apple-patented parts to a non-Apple assembler.

I don't know... thats just my take on it.

Jane55 Jane55 said:

hmm, I also read this news on observer. Have to say, the White iPhone 4 is too fantastic, LOL

this news advertised for Apple to some degree, u know White is a traditional color for Apple products, and the white one is really cool and lovely. Whenever there are a little rumors about white iPhone 4, there are on fire.

PS: What you need to know about the Apple iPhone 4

Guest said:

Excellent job!!!!!

Continue doing and selling.

Freedom for all show that teen done excellent job!

And it is bad if Apple has patented these white cases. This is bad.

Guest said:

As I say continue selling! Excellent job!

Apple must be happy!

I think that there is nothing bad because there must be freedom for everyone.

Guest said:

ok at first i thoguht he was selling counterfeit iphones, so i was like ok how silly of him.

then i went to the website and hes selling like iphone cases?

so in the end people still need to buy an 800 -1000 dollar iphone phone that is legit?

so hes just selling iphone cases, wtf?

seriously apple. im glad i only own an ipod and is a proud blackberry owner.

my first ipod exploded in my purse. good thing it wasnt clipped to my body.

Guest said:

Typical fruit behaviour from Cupertino, get off your **** Jobs and go get one.

Guest said:

I don't know exactly what IP Apple lays claim to on the iPhone; but, if patented parts and/or software are being made, used, or sold, the patent holder (Apple in this case) has the right to stop any such activity. All you guys who are high-fiving freedom in the market place completely misunderstand the constitutional rights of inventors to protect their inventions. It is that right that makes products like the iPhone possible in the first place. This has absolutely nothing to do with the "evil empire" of Apply trying to suppress technological freedom. If you don't like what Apple has done, you are free to invent around it and make something better--just don't use Apple IP to do it.

uttaradhaka said:

If the iPad has GSM capabilities, it'll be great. Finally, consumers won't have to seek out wifi hotspots for internet all the time.

Guest said:

HaHa. He didn't buy the products from Apples supplier legitimately. He bought them from a contact at Foxconn. Someone that he claims he knew form "back in the day." That's seriously what he said. He's 17 years old and he's making business deals with a contact from back in the day. He and his contact are criminals plain and simple. Everyone can root for the little guy. But, he did not design anything, does not offer any sort of service and does not have a license to sell the products. he simply heard all the buzz about the white phone and used his connections to get backdoor Apple rip-off parts. He's no better than the street pedaler selling fake Rolexes. Although, Apple is a really gay company. I mean that. They are so gay. But, they spend a ton of money on r&d to make the coolest hipster stuff. So they deserve their market share. The people in charge there are just better at what they do than just about anyone on the planet. And gay.

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